The former Minister who brokered a transaction with the Crown to bring the Foreshore into Jersey ownership has said there would have been “fireworks” had he known that islanders with homes on that land would later be charged by the government.
The comments came from former Bailiff Sir Philip Bailhache, who also previously acted as the Receiver General, the Queen's land administrator.
Prior to the Foreshore - a zone vaguely defined as the area between the high and low tide mark - coming into the Public's ownership in 2015, Sir Philip said that successive Receivers General had "taken a fairly relaxed and benevolent approach towards the public, and if the homeowner wanted to put steps down from his property onto the beach the general approach was to concede that that would be ok."
But that stopped being the case once the land transfer was completed, as Jersey Property Holdings began asking those intent on selling their properties to pay up.
Pictured: Sir Philip said Receivers General had usually taken a "fairly relaxed and benevolent" view on sea wall development.
Sir Philip said it was a "surprise" to learn this after leaving the government, telling Express, "If I had been aware I would have done something about it" and later adding, "there would have been some fireworks beforehand!"
Among those to be caught by the new approach - which was never detailed in a formal policy - were Alan Luce and Julian Mallinson.
Mr Luce had to pay £30,000 for his 'encroachment' when he sold his Greve d'Azette property. Meanwhile, Mr Mallinson had to fork out around £20,000 - even though the steps leading to the beach from his property were approved by both the Planning Department and the Receiver General.
Deputy Carolyn Labey is now making a bid to stop what has been dubbed a Foreshore 'tax', refund the pair, and get the government to provide a map of exactly which properties are caught by the Foreshore in a proposal which is due to be debated by States Members next week.
However, ahead of that, Infrastructure Minister Deputy Kevin Lewis has attempted to stop that bid with a number of amendments to her proposals.
Speaking to Express, Sir Philip described Deputy Lewis's plans as "curious" and likely to "make matters worse".
"What Deputy Labey is in effect seeking is a moratorium so that no further financial demands can be made of homeowners who have allowed encroachments to take place until the whole policy could be debated by the States… What the Minister's amendment does is to put a freeze on all land transactions until the revised policy has been debated by the States.
"...The result of that is that no homeowner with a property adjoining the Foreshore will be able to sell his property before the foreseeable future at least until the States have had the opportunity to consider the policy and the Minister has been able to put it together. That doesn’t seem to me to be fair."
Sharing his personal view on resolving the matter, Sir Philip added: "My own view is that the Sates should restore the status quo.
"I think that Foreshore encroachments are a difficult area where there certainly needs to be a policy to determine what should be done about them because encroachments vary from putting steps down onto the beach, which is a fairly minor encroachment at one end, to putting an extension on the sea wall, which is not a minor encroachment.
"So each encroachment has to be looked at individually and I think that the minister has to bear in mind that he has responsibility for sea defences and if an encroachment makes it difficult for sea defences to be improved or maintained, then that’s obviously something that has to be taken into account. It needs some careful thought.
"While that careful thought takes place, it seems to me that tolerant and relaxed approach of the Crown which has taken place in the past should be continued."
After years in the making, that policy is now finally close to completion.
Express understands that, following research, the Government has identified more than 400 properties that could be affected.
Reacting, coastal property owner Terry Arthur, who lives along La Grande Route de la Cote, commented: "You buy your house through the appropriate court authorities. The court appearance on the Friday afternoon is in French. We don't speak French. We trust the lawyers and Court Officials to have done all the appropriate searches to ensure the legalities of the transactions. Everything is 100% legally binding."
Pictured: Terry Arthur, coastal homeowner.
He continued: "38 years later, we learn that we may be on a list of over 400 properties that are to be charged compensation for apparent encroachments. These charges will come from another section of the authorities who sanctioned the purchase in the Royal Court.
"Imagine the legal logjam in the courts when several hundred households contest this claim."
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